Above: the event in the Champ de Mars (OP Haiti)
By the Caribbean Journal staff
Haiti President Michel Martelly marked two years in office Tuesday with a ceremony along the Champ de Mars in downtown Port-au-Prince, a site that had been a tent city before he became President.
The former singer entered office almost a year and a half after the crippling 2010 earthquake, facing a country and an economy in shambles.
Today, Haiti’s GDP is projected to grow by 6.5 percent in 2013, according to the IMF, the fastest growth in the Caribbean, although a similar projection last year fell closer to 3 percent due in part to a pair of crippling storms and in part due to low execution of public capital spending.
Haiti’s government has seen several successes — led by the creation of a new start for the country’s long-neglected tourism sector and a free public education programme that the government said had put more than 300,000 students previously out of school back into the school system and provided, by some estimates, at least 1 million young Haitians with free tuition, according to Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe.
But Haiti’s executive, legislative and judicial branches took almost a year and a half to agree on the establishment of an electoral council necessary to hold legislative and municipal elections. (A transitional college of the Permanent Electoral Council was established last month).
That delay led to a long period of criticism from the international community — particularly the United Nations.
And the government of Martelly and Lamothe underwent two major Cabinet reshuffles and saw the recent resignations of two ministers — former Communication Minister Regine Godefroy and Finance Minister Marie-Carmelle Jean-Marie.
On the foreign policy front, Martelly has prioritized changing Haiti’s image abroad, seeking to increase the country’s profile both within the Caribbean (as current CARICOM chairman, Haiti hosted the CARICOM Heads of Government summit in February for the first time in its history), and internationally, with a series of foreign trips, including visits to the European Union and Chile, among others.
While the number of people living in tent camps stood at 1.5 million in 2010, that number has fallen 79 percent, according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration. But more than 300,000 people still live in tent cities, and a number of others have reportedly been removed by forced eviction.